Thursday, December 22, 2011


I was watching the show intervention recently. Despite all of the emotion of the show, the most climatic part is always right before the credits, when two lines of text pop up updating the audience on the life of the addict. It is as though the struggle the addict has gone through was all for naught if they relapse. This week, I decided to write my update.

While in the Philippines I had the pleasure of working with some extraordinary young people. From two teenagers sisters who successfully ran a week of vacation bible school, to high schoolers in Santiago and Besao who showed responsibility and leadership skills well beyond their years.

When I got home, a youth at my church asked me to be his mentor for his confirmation class. When I went to the class I was dumbfounded by what I saw. I knew many of the students in the class quite well. But I didn’t just know them. I recognized them as exceptional youth who will lay the foundation of their community. One of them had taught vacation bible school with me at the Navajo Indian reservation back in 2008. Another had built houses with me in Kentucky in 2010. The three others, including my mentee, are already well respected young members of my church. I am very proud to be associated with this exceptional group. Ironically, it was in the Philippines where I learned true community pride. I say ironically because it was the only time I was truly removed from my own community. In the Philippines people will often talk about the accomplishments of other in the community with jubilant pride in their role as a mentor, brother, or uncle. In the US we often talk about the accomplishments of other with a bit of competitive animosity.

I have kept my word from a previous blog. After seeing the effects of the diocese lending co-opertive, I have been motivated to get a job at my community bank (I have the equivalent of Grace’s job for my EDS friends). I am contemplating my next step in life right now, but I am pretty content where I’m at. I am playing hockey every weekend and on my days off. I even got back in time to finish the summer season with my Dad’s team. I am truly thankful for the things I have here at home. I really did miss my family, friends, and dog. I also didn’t realize how much I missed driving until I got home. Therefore, I bought my dream car and I have driven it half way across the country a few times to see family and friends.

One of the ways I explained food in America to Filipinos was that we would eat vastly different foods each day. It would be Italian one day, then hamburgers, then Mexican, then BBQ, etc. Since returning home, Filipino food has worked its way into that rotation. I have been making chicken with soup and rice quite often. I am still on the hunt (figuratively) for innards to make dinar dirakan.

(A side note to my Filipino friends: First, I’m sure I spelled it wrong. Sorry. Second, you would not believe how hard it is to get your hands on a set of pig innards. Third, raising ducks is not practical for me right now, but I haven’t given up on my pursuit to catch and eat more wild turkeys, geese, and ducks. The problem is that the laws regarding shooting wild birds are quite strict.) I also tried my hand at making rice wine, but I didn’t use the correct rice, and it’s too cold now to try again before spring.

Finally, I just received some very exciting news from the Philippines. The soccer team from St. James that I coached for a month recently competed in the Provincial Athletic Meet. They took home the silver medal! During the tournament, they defeated St. Mary’s, who had a historically far more established soccer team. I have also heard that some of the St. James player will represent their Province in the upcoming regional meet. It is quite an accomplishment, and I couldn’t be prouder of the players and coaches who made it happen.

Well, that’s it. I don’t know when or even if I will write again. Since I can’t really think of a good way to end this blog, I guess I will leave this pathetic conclusion. Hopefully, it will motivate me to write again someday.    

Monday, July 25, 2011

Besao VI: Gameday

St. Mary’s High School of Sagada backed out of our soccer friendly just days before it was scheduled. The gym teacher, Roger Gawidan, was able to find some soccer players that were willing to play on only a few days notice. They were 6 soccer players on full athletic scholarship at the nearby Mountain Province State Polytechnic College. St. James held their own against the scholarship athletes who were as many as 7 years older than the St. James players. MPSPC was clearly the more polished team, but that did not stop St. James from keeping the game close. At one point in the second half St. James was down only 5-4. However, the experience and advanced ball handling of our visitors allowed them to run ahead to a final score of 8-4. Despite playing soccer for only one month, we were able to hold our own against the best team the Mountain Province has to offer.

I couldn’t be prouder of the effort shown by the players in the past month. St. James is a young team that has shown tremendous skill in soccer in a very short period of time. We started 3 sophomores and one freshman, with another sophomore and freshman each seeing lots of playing time off the bench. Our goals came from senior and team captain Omar Lee Aiudengan, sophomore Jeremy Baguilod, and sophomore Ferdinand Cabog scored twice.

Here was a schedule of events:
7:00am- Start cooking 4 kilos of pork, 1 big bag of beans, and 8 kilos of rice. The simple yet hardy lunch costs only $0.60 US cent per head.
9:00am- Church starts. All players are in attendance.
10:30am- Church ends and warm ups begin. We see who can kick the ball through the tire first to determine who will be shirts and who will be skins.
11:00am- Kickoff. MPSPC is joined by one rotating St. James reserve player to complete the 7 on 7 scrimmage.
12:45pm- Game ends, players from both teams eat lunch together.
1:30pm- MPSPC players show some new drills to the St. James coaches and players and leave the players with words of encouragement and an offer for a rematch.
2:00pm- I run some conditioning exercises. A bus passes by while we are doing bear crawls, undoubtedly causing some new unpredictable stereotype.
2:15pm- I declare practice is over and everyone is free to go home.
2:16pm- All the reserve players (players who didn’t play vs MPSPC) and a few starters set up goals and have their own scrimmage.
4:30pm- The scrimmage ends and we all eat the leftovers from lunch.
5:00pm- I bid farewell to the team and we finally disperse after a rather epic day of sports.

Kicking the ball through the tire


Lunch Time

Monday, July 18, 2011

Besao Part V: Bryan Baldas

I have now been working at St. James high school for one month. It did not take me very long to notice one student that seemed a little bit different. He is a senior that had expressed interest in the soccer team named Bryan Baldas. Turns out the reason for his difference is that he is 21 years old, 5 or 6 years older than most of his classmates. I recently spent some time talking to him and I found his story fascinating. It starts after graduating from elementary school in Besao. He moved from Besao to Baguio (The biggest city north of Manila) where he spent 5 years unable to stick around at the high schools. This was partially due to very large class sizes. It is exceptionally easy for an unmotivated youth to fall through the gaping cracks in a class of 50. In those 5 years he accomplished little as an out of school youth. He went to class for a few days at the beginning of each year, then dropped out. He did what he could to eat, and slowly developed his trade as a car mechanic. Then he went to a weeding. This weeding took place in Agawa, his former home and a barangay of Besao. While in Agawa his grandfather informed him that as an 18 year old he would enroll as a freshman at St. James. Shortly thereafter he began the school year as a freshman for a sixth and final time. Despite many predictions to the contrary, he found success at St. James. Rather than disappearing through the cracks he became heavily involved in many church and community activities. He currently co-captains the soccer team and is an active member of the cultural troop at St. James.

When I asked him about what was next, I was admittedly taken back by his Billy Madison-esque response. The next step for this six time freshman was college.  Not only will he be doing his undergrad work next year, but he will be going to college with an eye on seminary afterward. I cannot recall a better example in my short lifetime of a person relegated by society as a failure accomplishing so much in 3 years towards reaching his full potential. He is the epitome of success for a school like St. James. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Besao Part IV

It has been a few weeks since my last blog. The reason is that Besao has been abuzz for the past 2 weeks due to a group of Korean college students visiting. I traveled with them on their hike to a remote village within Besao’s Municipality. Besao is a huge Municipality by area. Some places in Besao take over 3 hours to reach by car or jeepney. Their leader, Rev. Peter Choi, was extremely nice and it was a pleasure to share a couple of laughs with some fellow travelers. 

The past few weeks for me have been a blast. I have continued to teach soccer to the students during their PE period. Soccer has been nothing short of a phenomenon in Besao recently. Every moment the weather allows there are kids playing soccer on St. James’ field. Even when I show up at the beginning of the school day, there are 4 sticks in the ground representing the goals from the pre- 8am pick-up game (A game that I have never either played in or actually witnessed). Next week will be our interest meeting, yet they are already having student-led practices this weekend. Like I said in my previous blog some of these kids are scary good. I am almost glad I will be leaving in late July, because if I stay much longer than that my students will surpass my skill level in soccer. A friendly against Sagada (Besao’s neighboring municipality) has already been scheduled, and they were kind enough to squeeze it in for before I leave.

I would love to tell you more about each and every kid that has amazed me with their talent and ability to improve, but I can’t. There probably aren’t many other results when you google Besao soccer, and I don’t want to give Sagada a scouting report. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Besao Part III: Soccer

There is a joke that has recently come to mind: Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym. It has become quite obvious to me that this joke is perpetuated by those who work in a cubical. They are jealous that there is someone making a living running around on the grass they gaze out the window at (if they work enough years to earn the ability to gaze out said window). Teachers are obviously collateral damage to reach the punch line.

I have spent the last 2 days as the newest assistant teacher at St. James Episcopal high school. I've been teaching soccer to kids as young as 11. It has been an absolutely amazing experience. I thought the students to be similar to my American peers when I was their age. I fully expected a few girls to refuse to jog or participate in the activity. However, to my amazement, there has not been a single person who has done that. In fact, when they are playing soccer or doing drills, they are all enjoying themselves. I expected to see that pure enjoyment on the faces of a few aggressive boys, but the fact that everyone shared the same smile made my month.

That is not the only expectation they have vastly succeeded. During one of my classes, there was a boy who is an inch or two shorter than any other boy in the school. He listened to everything I said, and after one hour, he now has the best passing in Besao. I couldn’t believe it when he told me he had never played before. Perfect form, quick feet…he’s a natural. I can’t wait to put him on the field during a scrimmage and watch him school a 17 year old.

Other than forgetting to wear sunscreen yesterday, my first week in Besao has been nearly perfect. It has become very obvious why all of the St. James alumni speak so highly of the school and the community. If there is one sentence to describe Besao, it is this: Everyone who has ever spent time in Besao calls it “home”. I hope to include myself to that list before I leave.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Besao Experiance: Part II

One of the things that being in the Philippines has really taught me is about what I want and what I need. I wrote a long blog entry about it when I first got here. I spoke about living a life without what I thought I needed. Besao is essentially round 2 of the want vs need experiment. This time the biggest change I am making is adopting the Besao diet. I am living the next month without a refrigerator. There is also no market in Besao, and the meat available is either canned, frozen, or, if you’re lucky, from whatever animal was slaughtered that day. So far it has been a lot of fun. Going to the store is a lot like on Iron Chef when they pull of the sheet to reveal the day’s secret ingredient. Friday it was chicken thighs, Sunday it was pork liver. Sunday morning I had 5 potatoes, garlic, pepper, 2.2 lbs of green beans, 1 onion, 1 pack of Ramen, soy sauce, oil, half a bag of peanuts, and 1 lb of liver. I made liver and onion adobo with green beans. It was only a couple hundred grams of rice short of being a proper Filipino meal. I ate what I could, and I will eat the rest for lunch and/or dinner tomorrow (if ants don’t find it). I’m no expert, but I think this is basically how many people in the Philippines live every day. They take what they have, and make the best dish they can out of it.

So…why am I telling you this? It certainly wasn’t for sympathy. I got to eat a piece of meat that was so fresh it had never needed to see any form of preservation. Only a hunter or fisherman can truly know how special that is. I can’t really find the words to explain why I wrote this, so instead I will tell you a story that happened to someone, somewhere, sometime.

The NFL is currently in a lockout. People question, “Why can’t these millionaires and billionaires just be happy with everything they do have and play football.” Then they go to their refrigerator and say, “there’s nothing to eat” and get a little bit bummed out. The moral of the story isn’t to feel guilty, it’s just to take your own advice. Appreciate what you do have, because to many people you are the millionaire.

Anyway, it’s late at night. I hope you can understand the mad ramblings of a tired missionary.

PS. The mad ramblings of a tired missionary would make a far more appropriate blog title.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Besao Experiance: Part 1

My work with my projects has started to wind down as they prepare for my absence. Therefore, I have had a little bit of extra time to pursue other interests. There were limited options in Santiago, so I had to expand my search a little bit. Luckily St. James high school in Besao, Mountain Province invited me to spend 5 weeks as a physical education teacher. The high school was established by some of the first Episcopal missionaries to come to the Philippines in 1910’s. It is also the alma mater of many of my friends and bosses in Santiago and the ECP. Besao is one of a few villages that nearly every Episcopalian in the Philippines can trace their roots to. While most of the Philippines is overwhelmingly Catholic, Besao is almost exclusively Episcopalian.
I have been in Besao for only a day and a half, yet I have already gotten a very distinctive homely feeling. My dad came to visit a couple of weeks ago. We traveled to Santiago, Sagada, Baguio, Manila, and Hong Kong. While in Sagada, we were invited by Atty. Floyd Lalwet to his home in Besao. My dad and I agreed that while the other places were all nice, Besao was special. The landscape here is incredible. There are lush green mountains with bright rice terraces everywhere you look.  There are seemingly hundreds of hiking trails here that go to every farm in every corner of this municipality. There is also a large grass field about a 2 minute walk from my house where I will be teaching gym class. I will also be headed directly there to sharpen up on my soccer skills right after I finish my blog. Anyway, I am a little bit short on stories were because I have only been here a day and a half. Hopefully my next blog will include stories and pictures from my hikes and classes. I promise, you won’t have to wait as long for the next blog.